US hits Venezuela's state-owned oil company with sanctions

US crude production has undermined sentiment in market

With strongman President Nicolas Maduro losing control of the country's already-scant finances and reserves thanks to us sanctions, who can put his hands on the nation's estimated 200 tons of gold at home and overseas has become a key question.

The sanctions, announced by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and national security adviser John Bolton, include a freeze on any assets that Petroleos De Venezuela SA (PDVSA) has in USA jurisdictions and bar Americans from doing business with the company.

The latest US sanctions announced on Monday - bar state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (also known as PDVSA) from collecting proceeds from crude sales to USA refineries - appeared to be aimed at pressuring President Nicolas Maduro to step down and allow opposition leader Juan Guaido to call elections. The once prosperous nation has been in an economic collapse, with several million citizens fleeing to neighbouring countries.

President Donald Trump addressed US action in Venezuela, where people are abandoning socialist dictator Nicolas Maduro for an opposition leader, and warned USA citizens against traveling there.

If a shortage of heavy crude develops in the U.S.as expected, it will likely increase prices throughout the North American market, including in Canada, said Kevin Birn, vice-president of North American crude oil markets for IHS Markit.

His remarks in an interview with the Russian state-owned RIA Novosti news agency came amid a dire political crisis in Venezuela.

Maduro said he was aware of Trump's "orders" for the Columbian government and the local mafia to kill him.

Transferring authority over USA -based accounts to Guaido "will help Venezuela's legitimate government safeguard those assets for the benefit of the Venezuelan people", Palladino said in his announcement.

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Lavrov also made reference to news reports of an embarrassing error made by Trump administration national security adviser John Bolton, who flashed a notepad with the words "5,000 troops to Colombia" scrolled across the top in front of reporters. When asked about the note, the White House restated that "all options are on the table". The nation owes billions to its patrons Russian Federation and China as well as bondholders, and also needs hard currency to buy food for its starving people. The US, which buys more than 40 per cent of Venezuela's crude, is the South American country's single biggest oil customer.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the sanctions against PDVSA would prevent Maduro from diverting resources from the country until power could be transferred to an interim or democratically-elected government. On Monday New Zealand's closest neighbour, Australia, recognised Guaidó as Venezuela's president. In 2017, Maduro announced he was suspending payment on Venezuelan debt.

Without a source of revenue or control of the military, he faces hard odds in assuming leadership of the country, despite support across most of the Western Hemisphere. "That gold does not belong to Calixto Ortega".

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence met Guaido's designated envoy to the United States on Tuesday.

Oil-rich Venezuela is wracked with hyperinflation, rendering the bolivar currency practically worthless.

The source also confirmed to Bloomberg that the 20 tonnes of gold, which is worth about $840 million, represents 20% of Venezuela's gold holdings that are being stored inside the county.

Russian Federation also has extensive commercial interests in Venezuela, including state oil company Rosneft's partnership with the Venezuelan state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA.

But the United States is Venezuela's largest crude importer, ahead of India and China.

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